Imperial jade is a gemstone with an intense green color and a long history in China, where it has been revered for centuries as the royal gem, or “yu.”
Nephrite and jadeite are the two types of jade, with jadeite more highly valued for its color and rarity. The finest jadeite, imperial jade, comes from Myanmar, formerly Burma.
The use of jade dates back more than 7,000 years when people used the tough stone to make weapons and tools. Imperial jade has been China's royal gem since about 3000 B.C., when it was carved into objects, figurines and furnishings for the graves of members of the imperial family.
Jade is a symbol of beauty, wisdom and goodness. The stone is also said to personify Confucian qualities such as compassion, justice and courage.
Nephrite jade is believed to heal the kidneys, but both types of jade are considered powerful healing stones. Jade is also said to protect ancestral spirits when uniting the living with their ancestors.
Members of China's imperial family were buried in suits made of intricately carved jade during the Han Dynasty of 206 B.C. to 220 A.D. Commoners were never allowed to be buried in jade suits.